Embracing Entrepreneurship: The Business of Musical Theater Startups

Embracing Entrepreneurship: The Business of Musical Theater Startups

Redefining the Entertainer’s Mindset

As a former actor, professor of entertainment entrepreneurship, and lifelong student of the performing arts, I’ve come to understand that the true secret weapon of every successful entertainer is their entrepreneurial mindset. It’s a mindset that goes beyond the traditional boundaries of the entertainment industry, one that embraces risk, innovation, and the pursuit of multiple income streams.

You see, the days of the “starving artist” mentality are long gone. In today’s rapidly evolving creative landscape, the most thriving performers, directors, and producers are those who have learned to view themselves not just as artists, but as savvy business people – entrepreneurs who understand the value of diversifying their skillsets and creating their own opportunities.

The Difference Between Entertainment Business and Entertainment Entrepreneurship

It’s a crucial distinction that I’ve had the pleasure of explaining to many a bewildered student over the years. While entertainment business focuses on the varying aspects of the film, television, and new media industries – from pre-production to distribution – entertainment entrepreneurship is all about taking a more active, leading role in creating your own business ventures within the entertainment sphere.

As I defined it in a past article, an entertainment entrepreneur is an industry professional who creates a business, either passion or industry-related, that allows them to have residual income and scheduling flexibility – all while teaching them the correlation between owning a business and being their own boss.

Unlike the more traditional entertainment business model, entrepreneurship in the arts requires the development of a robust business plan, comprehensive market research, and a deep understanding of one’s target audience and potential revenue streams. It’s about recognizing the inherent value of your creative skills and intellectual property, and finding innovative ways to leverage them for financial gain.

As USC Cinematic Arts and UCLA Extension have articulated, the entertainment business encompasses the varying aspects of the film, television, and new media industries, whereas entertainment entrepreneurship is all about taking a leading role in creating your own business ventures within this dynamic landscape.

The Rise of the “Slashie” Performer

One of the most visible manifestations of this entrepreneurial mindset in the performing arts is the rise of the “slashie” performer – the multihyphenate artist who refuses to be pigeonholed into a single creative discipline. These are the singers who also write jingles, the actors who produce their own webseries, the dancers who run their own studios.

By embracing a diverse array of skillsets and income streams, the slashie performer is able to weather the inevitable ups and downs of the entertainment industry, never putting all their proverbial eggs in one basket. They’re constantly experimenting, exploring new avenues for creative expression and financial stability, and never living the same day twice.

It’s a mentality that I’ve seen transform the careers of countless students and colleagues over the years – a shift from the fixed, singular “artist” identity to a more fluid, adaptable “entrepreneur” mindset. And it’s a mindset that I believe is absolutely essential for any performer, director, or producer looking to not just survive, but thrive, in today’s rapidly evolving entertainment landscape.

Building Your Musical Theater Startup

So, what does it actually look like to put this entrepreneurial mindset into practice in the world of musical theater? Well, the possibilities are truly endless. Whether you’re an aspiring composer looking to crowdfund your next original production, a seasoned director hoping to launch your own touring company, or a choreographer dreaming of opening your own dance studio, the key is to approach your creative endeavors with the same rigor and strategic thinking as any tech startup founder.

Start by conducting comprehensive market research to identify unmet needs, emerging trends, and potential revenue streams. What are the pain points facing aspiring musical theater artists in your community? What unique value can you offer that sets you apart from the competition? How can you leverage your existing skills and connections to create a sustainable business model?

Once you’ve laid the groundwork, it’s time to get to work on crafting a detailed business plan. This is where the real magic happens – where you transform your creative vision into a concrete, actionable strategy for growth and success. The Musical Theater Center offers a wealth of resources to help you navigate this process, from business plan templates to one-on-one coaching sessions with seasoned industry veterans.

And don’t be afraid to think outside the box when it comes to monetizing your offerings. Perhaps you develop a series of masterclasses or workshops, or launch an online platform for aspiring performers to connect with established mentors. Or maybe you leverage your network to secure corporate sponsorships or forge strategic partnerships with like-minded organizations.

The key is to approach each new initiative with the same entrepreneurial spirit – a willingness to experiment, take calculated risks, and continuously iterate based on feedback and market demands. It’s about embracing the thrill of the unknown, and recognizing that failure is not the end, but rather a necessary stepping stone on the path to success.

Cultivating a Diverse Skill Set

Of course, building a successful musical theater startup requires more than just a great business plan. It also demands a diverse skill set that goes far beyond the traditional artistic disciplines. After all, as an entrepreneur, you’re not just a performer or director – you’re a marketer, a financial planner, a human resources manager, and so much more.

That’s why it’s so crucial to approach your own professional development with the same level of strategic thinking. Identify the key competencies you’ll need to succeed – things like digital marketing, fundraising, project management, and legal and regulatory compliance – and then create a plan to systematically build those skills over time.

Perhaps you enroll in a series of online courses, or seek out a mentor who can provide tailored guidance and support. Or maybe you simply make a conscious effort to stretch yourself beyond your comfort zone, taking on new challenges and responsibilities that push you to grow.

The bottom line is that the most successful musical theater entrepreneurs are the ones who are constantly learning, adapting, and expanding their horizons. They’re the ones who recognize that true mastery isn’t just about perfecting their craft, but about becoming a well-rounded, adaptable, and resilient business leader.

Embracing the Entrepreneurial Mindset

At the end of the day, what sets the most successful musical theater entrepreneurs apart isn’t their natural talent or their connections – it’s their mindset. It’s their ability to see every challenge as an opportunity, to embrace risk and uncertainty, and to constantly be on the lookout for new ways to create value and drive their businesses forward.

It’s a mindset that I’ve had the privilege of nurturing in my students over the years – one that has transformed their careers and enabled them to achieve levels of success that they never thought possible. And it’s a mindset that I believe every aspiring performer, director, and producer should strive to cultivate.

So, if you’re ready to take your musical theater dreams to the next level, I encourage you to embrace your inner entrepreneur. Start by conducting a thorough self-assessment, identifying your unique strengths and weaknesses, and then create a customized plan to bridge those gaps. Surround yourself with a network of like-minded individuals who can provide support, guidance, and accountability. And most importantly, never stop learning, experimenting, and pushing the boundaries of what’s possible.

Because in the end, the true secret to success in the world of musical theater isn’t just about your talent or your connections – it’s about your mindset. It’s about your willingness to think outside the box, to take calculated risks, and to constantly reinvent yourself in the face of a rapidly changing industry. And that, my friends, is the essence of true entrepreneurship.

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